Wednesday, March 6, 2019. New York City – I love reading about everything. Reading about nude art gives me ideas of new poses. I learn about history. The human body is beautiful. I love that so many other artists have been creating art with the human body.
I read this today on Wikipedia: “Depictions of nudity include visual representations of nudity through the history, in all the disciplines, including the arts and sciences. Nudity is restricted in most societies, but some depiction of nudity may serve a recognized social function. Clothing also serves as a significant part of interpersonal communication, and the lack of clothing needs to have a social context.
Nudity in art – painting, sculpture and more recently photography – has generally reflected social standards of the time in aesthetics and modesty/morality. At all times in human history, the human body has been one of the principal subjects for artists. It has been represented in paintings and statues since prehistory. Both male and female nude depictions were common in antiquity, especially in ancient Greece. Depictions of the naked body have often been used in symbolic ways, as an extended metaphor for complex and multifaceted concepts. The Roman goddess Venus, whose functions encompassed love, beauty, sex, fertility and prosperity, was central to many religious festivals in ancient Rome, and was venerated under numerous cult titles. The Romans adapted the myths and iconography of her Greek counterpart, Aphrodite, in their art and literature.
In the later classical tradition of the West, Venus was one of the most widely depicted deities of Greco-Roman mythology as the embodiment of love and sexuality. In ancient Rome, she embodied love, beauty, enticement, seduction, and persuasive female charm among the community of immortal gods; in Latin orthography, her name is indistinguishable from the noun venus (“sexual love” and “sexual desire”), from which it derives.
Venus has been described both as perhaps “the most original creation of the Roman pantheon” and “an ill-defined and assimilative” native goddess, combined “with a strange and exotic Aphrodite.” Her cults may symbolize the genuine charm and seduction of the divine by mortals, in contrast to the formal, contractual relations between most members of Rome’s official pantheon and the state, and the unofficial, illicit manipulation of divine forces through magic.
Mythological tales and stories from the Greek and Roman mythology depicting naked gods were often used as theme for the different paintings, like the scene where the two Leucippides, Leucippus daughters are abducted by Castor and Pollux. Leucippus, son of Gorgophone and Perieres, was the father of Phoebe and Hilaeira, and also of Arsinoe, mother (in some versions of the myth) of Asclepius, and Eriopis (daughter by Apollo) by his wife Philodice, daughter of Inachus.
Castor and Pollux abducted and married Phoebe and Hilaeira, the daughters of Leucippus. In return, Idas and Lynceus, nephews of Leucippus and rival suitors, killed Castor. Polydeuces was granted immortality by Zeus, and further persuaded Zeus to share his gift with Castor.
A myth is a sacred narrative explaining how the world and humankind assumed their present form. The myth can be defined as an “ideology in narrative form.” Myths may arise as either truthful depictions or overelaborated accounts of historical events, as allegory for or personification of natural phenomena, or as an explanation of ritual. They are used to convey religious or idealized experience, to establish behavioral models, and to teach.
Beside gods and goddesses the depiction of athletes and competitors and the winners of the antique competitions and Olympics were often depicted in antiquity. The bronze statue of a young athlete, found in the sea near Marathon (Attic coast), a work of the Praxiteles school, (ca. 340-330 B.C.) is only one of many examples. In Classical Greece and Rome, public nakedness was accepted in the context of public bathing or athletics. The Greek word gymnasium means “a place to be naked.” Athletes commonly competed nude, but many city-states allowed no female participants at those events, Sparta being a notable exception.
The mythological themes were often used as the painter’s subjects not only in the antiquity but they remained an archetypal topic during the centuries and a genre of painting with mythological subjects developed were these themes were used and reused as subjects of the artists. One example of the antique mythological themes is Danaë from Greek mythology, the mother of Perseus, who is usually depicted nude meeting her lover, depicting the scene when Zeus came to her in the form of golden rain or in the form of a shower of gold and impregnated her.
Other themes that were often used to depict the naked human body were the Biblical story of Susanna and the Elders, David, and Adam and Eva in the creation myth.
Portraits and nudes without a pretense to allegorical or mythological meaning were a fairly common genre of art during all centuries. Some regard Goya’s La Maja desnuda of around 1800, which provoked outrage in Spanish society over the model painted with and without her clothes (desnuda means nude), was “the first totally profane life-size female nude in Western art”, but paintings of nude females were not uncommon, especially paintings of mistresses and lover of kings, dukes and other aristocrats and mistresses and wives of the artists. La Maja desnuda was different in only one way, it was exhibited on a public art exhibition.
A 1751 portrait of Marie-Louise O’Murphy, mistress to Louis XV of France, by François Boucher depicts the model lying naked on her bed, playfully stretched out with her legs apart.
The painting Gabrielle d’Estrées et une de ses soeurs (Gabrielle d’Estrées and one of her sisters), by an unknown artist circa 1594, is of Gabrielle d’Estrées, mistress of King Henry IV of France, sitting up nude in a bath, holding what is presumed to be Henry’s coronation ring, while her sister, also nude, sits beside her and pinches her right nipple. Henry gave Gabrielle the ring as a token of his love shortly before she died. The painting is a symbolic announcement anticipating the birth of Gabrielle’s first child with Henry, César de Bourbon.
Andrea Doria (1466–1560) was an Italian condottiero and admiral from Genoa. He was famous as a naval commander. For several years he scoured the Mediterranean in command of the Genoese fleet, waging war on the Turks and the Barbary pirates. Doria entered the service of King Francis I of France, who made him captain-general. On the expiration of Doria’s contract he entered the service of Emperor Charles V (1528). As imperial admiral he commanded several expeditions against the Ottoman Empire.
Helena Fourment in furs or Venus in fur by Peter Paul Rubens. He was generally successful and always active, although over seventy and eighty years old. Judged by the standards of his day, Doria was an outstanding leader. He chose to be depicted nude as Poseidon, the “God of the Sea.” Poseidon’s main domain is the ocean, and Doria was a successful admiral. The god is usually depicted as an older male with curly hair and beard.
Although naked, Andrea Doria is not fragile or frail. He is depicted as a powerful virile man, showing masculine spirit, strength, vigor, and power. Bronzino’s so-called “allegorical portraits”, such as this Genoese admiral, Andrea Doria are less typical but possibly even more fascinating due to the peculiarity of placing a publicly recognized personality in the nude as a mythical figure.
Helena Fourment in furs, a painting by the Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens, shows the artist’s second wife, Helena Fourment. Rubens frequently used his young wife as a model: she is also the subject of Helena Fourment, Helena Fourment in a wedding dress (1630), Helena Fourment with his son Fransem (1635) Helena Fourment with children (1636-1637), Portrait of Helena Fourment with carriage in the background (1639) and the full-figure painting of Helena in fur (1638) getting out of the bath. Helene has been featured in a pose similar to the Venus pudica (modest Venus), one of the most popular presentations of the goddess in antiquity. The young woman covers herself with a fur, but the garment leaves her breasts visible, and she looks in a teasing way at the viewer. The picture remained in Rubens’ possession and had a particular importance for him. He left it to his wife in his will.
Even Manet created a scandal when he exhibited Le déjeuner sur l’herbe and Olympia, in which a model is depicted naked.
Since the first days of photography, the nude was a source of inspiration for those who adopted the new medium. Most of the early images were closely guarded or surreptitiously circulated as violations of the social norms of the time, since the photograph captures real nudity. Many cultures, while accepting nudity in art, shun actual nudity. For example, even an art gallery which exhibits nude paintings will typically not accept nudity in a visitor. Alfred Cheney Johnston (1885 – 1971) was a professional American photographer who often photographed Ziegfeld Follies. He also maintained his own highly successful commercial photo studio, producing magazine ads for a wide range of upscale retail commercial products—mostly men’s and women’s fashions—and also photographed several hundred artists and showgirls, including nude photographs of some. Most of his nude images (some named, mostly anonymous) were, in fact, showgirls from the Ziegfeld Follies, but such daring, unretouched full-frontal images would certainly not have been openly publishable in the 1920s–1930s, so it is speculated that these were either simply his own personal artistic work, and/or done at the behest of Flo Ziegfeld for the showman’s personal enjoyment. Male naked bodies were not pictured as frequently at the time. An exception is the photograph of the early bodybuilder Eugen Sandow modelling the statue The Dying Gaul, illustrating the Grecian Ideal which he introduced to bodybuilding.
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